You’ve gotten in the habit of coming early to Aquacise. Didn’t you say that swimming laps is better for the heart than a bowl of soggy Cheerios? I’m a Raisin Bran chap myself, but I catch your drift.
I promised I’d join in. I know you’ve always fancied those fit types—muscular men with dark curls like Harold. Well, this bald patch ain’t gettin’ any smaller, but I’ll cut back on the chocolate chip cookies if it’ll up my chances. One too many when the grandkids visit and I’m starting to poof out around the middle.
You teeter at the pool’s edge, posing for a dive. When you raise your arms, I spot that silly bird poking its wrinkled beak out of your floral swimsuit. The colours have faded, but to me it’s as clear as the day you got it. You hopped on my Harley, a fool of a grin plastered across your face, and when we fell against my flimsy mattress, you let me peek under the gauze bandage. I asked why the hell you’d want a pigeon on your back. “A dove,” you said, and you spent the rest of the afternoon clipping coupons and dreaming up motorcycle trips to Tijuana.
I remember that tattoo just as I remember how your lipstick left love tracks across my chest. Kisses tinged with the taste of Sazerac. Russian Red—now that was your colour. I know because years later I tried buying that shade for Mary-Alice. The tube rolled around her drawer for months, unopened. Pale pink suited her better.
But now it’s just you and me again, and there’s nothing between us but an empty lane and a lifeguard. This time, it doesn’t matter how many tires you slash, how many yelling matches break out at the side of the highway, how many bouquets of peonies you refuse. I’ll never let you go again.
You tuck the stray white curls under your swimming cap, suck in a deep breath, and point your hands above your head like a pencil tip. As you waver, I notice the way your tits sag and disappear into your caved body. But in that second before you leap off the edge, you look up, and right then, I swear I catch a wink.
—Ellen Keith is currently working on her MFA in creative writing through the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Globe and Mail, Adore Chroma, Travel Origins Magazine, and at Travel and Escape.ca. She has received the Anton Fiction Prize and the James Patrick Folinsbee Prize in Creative Writing.